Ask the wrong questions, and you'll get answers that are misleading at best and possibly harmful. Ask better questions, and you'll get much more helpful answers. There are some questions every married person should ask that can significantly change both your satisfaction and your success in your most important human relationship.
Some spouses primarily ask, "How can I get my husband (or wife) to do what I want them to do?" Or, "When are my needs going to get met?" Or, "How much do I have to give (or forgive, or have sex, or ...) if my spouse isn't doing their part?" You may even ask, "How can I punish my spouse for their bad behavior?"
Those questions will drive you farther apart and create walls between you.
Every successful marriage is the union of two sinners who allow God to use the laboratory of marriage to help them learn how to love well. And these five questions will put you in a great position to cooperate with God in doing exactly that.
1. What's it like to be married to me?
News flash; you cannot change your spouse! Your spouse can change, but not because you try to make them change. You can only change you. The only thing you have control over is your own words, actions, attitudes, behavior.
That's actually a place of power. You will not be perfect, but if you change, your marriage will change.
Reflect on what it's like to be married to you. Do you like what you see? Are you safe? Inviting? Kind? Respectful? Loving?
And I encourage you to ask this of your spouse as well. Ask at a time when you can truly open your heart and listen. Don't sit as judge on what your spouse may say; look for the truth underlying their response. That can provide priceless insight into knowing where to direct your energies going forward.
2. What does the world look like through your eyes?
"Study your spouse." I heard that piece of advice shortly before I got married, and it proved so helpful.
Before trying to get your spouse to understand you, seek to understand your spouse. What makes them tick? What excites, drains, energizes, scares or nourishes your spouse? What's their love language? What are their wounds, their dreams, their desires?
From all you know about your spouse, try to put yourself in their shoes.
And then ask your spouse this question. Position yourself as curious and invite your spouse to share themselves with you. For some introverts, this may seem challenging. But regardless of how hard the effort, you will be more than rewarded with a much better opportunity for intimacy and love.
3. What kind of marriage do I want us to have in the future?
Too many people slide into marriage. It's important to do marriage on purpose.
If your marriage continues as it is right now, what will it look like in a year? Ten years? Thirty years? Do you like what you see? If not, what are you going to do about it?
It's the little investments you make today that will determine what your marriage will look like in the future. No, you don't have control of everything! But what you do today will determine so much about what tomorrow looks like in your relationship.
This is also a question to talk about with your spouse.
4. Who does God need me to be to my spouse in this season?
This is perhaps the most powerful question of all. This will take staying on your knees. And this question applies regardless of how healthy or unhealthy your marriage is, and whether your spouse is following Jesus well or not.
God may need to you back off and give Him space to work. He may need you to set some strong boundaries. He may need you to change some things in your own heart and behavior. Or He may need you to love your spouse well in a way you had not yet loved.
And if your relationship is such that you can do so, ask your spouse the question, "Who do you need me to be to you in this season?"
5. What is God's purpose for our marriage?
As important as God's purpose for you individually is, He also has a purpose for your marriage. There may be no greater proof that God is who He says He is than a godly marriage that stands the test of time, a marriage that overcomes hardships, where both spouses find healing, and where you together look beyond yourselves to blessing the world for His kingdom.
That's not some grandiose image of an impossible future. And it's not something separate from your daily living in relationship. The point is that your marriage is not all about you!
The people you influence as a couple (children, family, friends, coworkers, others) will be different because of you. The challenges you overcome as a couple will have ripple effects far beyond your own home. Are you being intentional about the kind of difference you want to make?
Prayerfully ask these questions. Talk and pray about them with your spouse. And the answers you creatively grow into will change your marriage.
Your Turn: What are the perhaps unconscious questions you've been asking about your marriage? Is there one of these questions that you need to be asking right now? Leave a comment below.
Dr. Carol Peters-Tanksley is both a board-certified OB-GYN physician and an ordained doctor of ministry. As an author and speaker, she loves helping people discover the Fully Alive kind of life Jesus came to bring us. Visit her website at drcarolministries.com.
This article originally appeared at drcarolministries.com.
For more about marriage, listen to the podcasts included with this article.
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